Wednesday, December 09, 2015

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Nine

As we find our No. 16 albums of the year behind door nine of the Musical Advent Calendar, 
Dollard reports from The 'Hood, Carlisle, and Pranam reports from the middle of the knot he's tied himself in. 

Andy Welch
Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass (Spacebomb)

Although recorded in 2012, we had to wait three years for Natalie Prass' debut. It was delayed due to the solo career of its producer, Matthew E White, took off. No doubt frustrating for Prass, but as a childhood friend of White's, it's likely she doesn't hold a grudge. Not only does it highlight Prass' excellent songwriting, but also the sheer quality coming out of Spacebomb studio. After this, and White's two albums, I can't wait to hear what both she and the studio do next. 

Rory Dollard
Ghostface Killah and BadBadNotGood - Sour Soul (Lex)

As a 32-year-old white boy from rural Cumbria, I don't feel awfully well qualified to declare hip hop a moribund genre. But if we all went about only saying things we were qualified to talk about we'd be in a tedious old bind. So, yeah, it's moribund. It's scorched earth. And if it's not, then frankly someone needs to do a much better job of beating the drum in the musical heartlands of Carlisle, Brampton, Irthington and Great Corby. Ghostface is, as ever, a gloriously trend-bucking standout. Here he teams with BBNG - an authentic experimental jazz band - and the results are often wonderful. He's not only pushing the envelope, he's pushing it all the way to the CA4 postcode.

Matt Collins
Diagrams - Chromatics (Full Time Hobby)

Every pleasant flight of melancholy indie. Loveliness of sadness and song in every track.

Dom Farrell
The Arcs - Yours, Dreamily (Nonesuch)

Jack White might famously have beef with Dan Auerbach but he must grudgingly doff one of his more ludicrous hats towards his fellow retro-blues revivalist on account of their shared prodigious work ethic. Making up half of the decade’s breakthrough arena rock act and lending his hand to a host of acclaimed production gigs has not stopped Auerbach from compiling his West Coast record with an assortment of musical chums during his sparing downtime. In many ways a natural progression from the expanded soundscapes of Black Keys previous outing Turn Blue, there are nods to the past as 'Pistol Made of Bones' outsources the rubber factory to Mexico. As was the case with 2009’s solo debut Keep It Hid, Auerbach proves that taking time away from the act in which he made his name does not have to mean diminishing returns.

Andrew Gwilym
Paul Weller – Saturns Pattern (Parlophone)

Weller’s output over the last seven years has been stunning. The former Jam frontman has always been a musical shapeshifter (although maybe not in the manner of a Bowie or a Dylan), moving from punk, to soul, to acid jazz and trad-rock with ease. He faced arguably his biggest challenge in the post- Britpop era. He had been a musical touchstone for the likes of Oasis and Blur, but once their popularity waned he could have faded into obscurity. A change to songwriting approach followed and Saturns Pattern follows the hot streak of 22 Dreams, Wake Up the Nation and Sonik Kicks. Long Time packs a punch, while Phoenix and Pick It Up have a breezy, hazy demeanour. The Modfather is still going strong.

John Skilbeck
Trust Fund - No One’s Coming For Us (Turnstile)

Trust Fund released two albums this year, which is rather heroic. No One’s… was the first. And this selected song was 97 seconds of heartbreaking loveliness.

Pranam Mavahalli
Panda Bear- Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (Domino)

Recently I saw the new Bond film Spectre expecting great things. I enjoyed the film while watching it but later, and the more I thought about, the more I felt it was lacking. And now just under a fortnight after having seen it, I'd say it was pretty disappointing. Which brings me to this album which I played quite a bit when it first came out. But months later, and almost a year after it came out, it's got rudely shoved to the back of the pile. Does that reflect the quality of the album itself? Or is it more a problem with the fact that the sheer volume of new and old music we now have access to means that we no longer spend the time listening to albums that we once did? Or is it just that there's something missing at the core, that stops me returning to it?

Ian Parker
Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear - Skeleton Crew (Glassnote)

If you thought about it for too long, there could be something weird about the fact Madisen Ward is in a band with his mum, and not just when it comes to songs like 'Whole Lotta Problems' - in which she offers him some relationship advice in the form of backing vocals. But the slightly unusual set-up really does work. We've rambled on extensively in the past about the special chemistry which exists when siblings perform together, so this is just another twist. And no gimmicks are required to sell their talents, led by Madisen's rich vocals and literate lyrics.

Guy Atkinson
Blacklisted - When People Grow, People Go (Deathwish)

Crunching, aggressive hardcore that I doubt a single other person on this panel will get any enjoyment from.

Steve Pill
LoneLady – Hinterland (Warp)

As a former Manc dweller, Hinterland is a welcome reminder of the city's unique musical character – industrial, danceable and loose, eclectic, earnest and effortlessly cool. At various points you can hear the influence of local heroes (early New Order, A Certain Ratio) as well as almost all of the greatest art-pop icons of the last 35 years: ESG, Prince, Arthur Russell, Talking Heads, Madonna, St Vincent and more. Julie Campbell assembles all of these touchstones into something far more fresh and exciting than she did on debut, Nerve Up. And by extending most of the songs beyond the five-minute mark, she gives taut, sinuous grooves time to expand and breathe, particularly on the cello-driven Hinterland and the number-1-in-waiting Groove It Out.


  1. I meant to get that Lonelady album, then saw her tear it to absolute bits at Tramlines in Sheffield this summer. Still haven't bought the album. I'm a moron, so thanks for the reminder Steve.

  2. I meant to get that Lonelady album, then saw her tear it to absolute bits at Tramlines in Sheffield this summer. Still haven't bought the album. I'm a moron, so thanks for the reminder Steve.

  3. Guy's Track of the Day goes to Ghostface Killah and BadBadNotGood.